Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Four Downs: AFC North

While the Steelers need pass-rushers, everyone else in this division needs more blockers. The Browns in particular face the difficult task of replacing a Hall of Fame left tackle in Joe Thomas.

17 Jan 2018

Scramble for the Ball: Championship Quartets

by Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter

Andrew: Hello and welcome to Scramble for the Ball, where this week we look forward to a ... let's say unexpected Conference Championship weekend. As we discussed last week, Bryan picked three of this week's four participating teams to actually finish under their Vegas win totals this year. I, being by far the wiser of your Scramble correspondents, only picked two of the four to finish under, which is a convincingly superior performance!

Bryan: Unexpected championship weekends are the best championship weekends. We had been expecting a death march in the AFC to yet another New England-Pittsburgh championship, and Jacksonville crashing the party is an honest-to-God shock. It's going to be hard for it to match the drama of the divisional round (because I'm not sure any week ever has matched the drama of the divisional round), but at least it will be something new rather than the same old song we've heard a hundred times before.

Andrew: That said, it's interesting how seldom the playoffs actually throw up the expected matchups. We looked last year at a historically great set of quarterback matchups. One of the reasons it was so historically great is the fact that usually, somebody somewhere will upset the proverbial applecart on the strength of defense and running. This week, it's arguable that three teams did just that, either in terms of the season as a whole or just in terms of their individual playoff victories.

Bryan: Yeah, most casual observers would have seen a list of quarterbacks with Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan and gone "yeah, well, those guys are obviously going to win." Defenses matter! It's just harder to sell on television sometimes, and that's why you're getting this debate on whether quarterback play in the NFL has tanked or if this is a historically bad set of players or so on and so forth. No, we can't just enjoy some of the best defensive performances of the decade; we've gotta critique the quarterbacks. Naturally.

     

Andrew: Which means, naturally, that it's time for us to critique the quarterbacks. And by us, I mean Bryan, as he put together an absolutely stunning amount of data sufficient for an article of its own. Sit back and marvel at the lengths he will go to in order to avoid dissing the Backup Bowl! (I kid. That is a genuinely fascinating matchup, and not only for everybody who believes there's no limit to what they could achieve if only they could get away from their sunglasses-sporting, maniacally-moustached boss.)

Bryan: This is what I do now that I quit my day job! I just stare at spreadsheets all day and try to will the data into patterns.

Our first idea was to go back to last year's article, listing the best and worst championship foursomes of the DVOA era. What quickly becomes apparent, however, is that 2017 isn't actually all that special, from a one-year perspective. Tom Brady led all quarterbacks in DYAR. Case Keenum was fourth, and topped the league in DVOA. Blake Bortles was average, although in a wildly inconsistent way. These are not the elements of a bad championship quartet! It's true that Nick Foles ended up with negative DYAR, but that's not unprecedented or anything; Detroit's Erik Kramer had a lower DYAR in 1991. In total, our quartet ends up with 3,347 DYAR for 2017 -- that doesn't even crack the bottom five.

That's the thing, though. When people call this the worst quarterback grouping they've seen, or rank the worst quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl or anything like that, they're not talking about 2017 Case Keenum or 2017 Blake Bortles. They're talking about the perception of Keenum and Bortles, developed through years of lower quality play. Case Keenum threw 22 touchdown passes this year? Great, but fans remember that he threw 24 from 2012 to 2016 as he struggled with the Texans and Rams. The casual fan would say "there's no Peyton Manning in this group," regardless of the fact that at least three of these quarterbacks are doing better than 2015 Peyton. It's about these players' entire careers, not the one-year sample size.

So that's what we're going to measure now. Rather than looking at DYAR or DVOA, we're going to look at championship game quarterbacks and quartets using Pro Football Reference's Career Approximate Value. AV has a number of issues -- it overrates long-term average starters and gives a bit too much credit for Pro Bowl berths, for example -- but it turns out those are the same things casual fans overrate players for! When you're trying to evaluate perceptions of players, it's a really good tool. Note that we are using each player's Weighted Career Approximate Value, not total Approximate Value -- click the prior link for a full explanation of the differences between the two. In short, Weighted Career AV gives players more credit for exceptional seasons, and less credit for stat-padding and compiling over time. For example, Matt Ryan and Vinny Testaverde have very similar non-weighted Career AVs: 150 for Ryan and 142 for Testaverde. But because Ryan has had more great seasons in a shorter period of time, he takes a deserved lead in Weighted Career AV, 120 to 97. That's why I prefer it as a metric for things like this; longevity is important, but it's best when matched with higher peaks.

With that out of the way, here are the ten most- and least-qualified quarterbacks to start a conference championship game in the Super Bowl era by weighted career AV:


Career AV of Conference Championship Quarterbacks
Lowest Highest
Player Team Year Career AV Player Team Year Career AV
Dieter Brock LARM 1985 9 Peyton Manning 2TM 5x 177
Shaun King TB 1999 18 Tom Brady NE 12x 171
Bob Lee MIN 1977 21 Drew Brees NO 2x 159
Case Keenum MIN 2017 23 Brett Favre 2TM 5x 156
Rex Grossman CHI 2006 23 Fran Tarkenton MIN 3x 149
Joe Kapp MIN 1969 23 Johnny Unitas* BAL 3x 145
Nick Foles PHI 2017 24 Dan Marino MIA 3x 145
Pete Beathard HOU 1967 26 John Elway DEN 5x 138
Mark Malone PIT 1984 27 Steve Young SF 4x 135
Steve Fuller CHI 1984 29 Philip Rivers SD 2007 135
Average 98.2 Median 98

Man, Minnesota has had some questionable quarterback play in crucial situations, haven't they?

There's Keenum and Foles, right there in the bottom ten, right where we think feels right. Blake Bortles is 20th, because he does have four years as a starter under his belt, but that's still in the bottom 10 percent of championship game quarterbacks. The other names on this list deserve to be there as well. Dieter Brock was a CFL legend who ended up playing one year in the NFL at the very end of his career. Shaun King was a rookie forced into action when Trent Dilfer broke his collarbone in the middle of the year. "General" Bob Lee was a punter/quarterback hybrid, forced into action when Fran Tarkenton broke his leg. Rex Grossman is, well, Rex Grossman. Extend the list a little further, and you get Mark Sanchez, Erik Kramer, Colin Kaepernick, Stan Humphries, Trent Dilfer -- a veritable "who's who" of "oh no, we're starting him?"s.

The list of top quarterbacks does break down a little bit, because at a certain point, career AV is measuring long, healthy careers rather than superlative play, but that's a list of ten quarterbacks I'd take anywhere with me. The one note here is that AV starts in 1960, so for quarterbacks who had pre-1960 careers, I had to estimate their "true" AV. That only really affects Johnny Unitas and George Blanda, and I think we're all comfortable with the concept of Johnny Unitas being really, really good, so that's OK then. The list is a reminder of how spoiled we've been in recent years, with some of the best quarterbacks in history all playing at the same time.

These lists, however, are very unfair to Keenum, Foles, and Bortles. And this is my defense of the 2017 championship quartet. There are two big reasons why we feel 2017 is so terribly bad. The first is because we've been spoiled by a historically unusual period of dominance by great quarterbacks. The second is because we have the benefit of hindsight when looking at past matchups, a benefit we do not have for the players of today.

We do not know how Case Keenum's career is going to play out! He might become the next Rich Gannon, someone who just needed to find the right situation before blossoming. Perhaps, in the year 2026, we'll look back at Keenum's third Super Bowl win and remember the time him and future Hall of Famer Blake Bortles were in the first of their many, many championship game appearances. We don't know what the future will hold, yet we're comparing the 2017 quartet to players we know now, in hindsight, developed. No one thought 2001 Tom Brady was going to turn into Tom Brady, Destroyer of Worlds, but we look back at 2001 today and go "that's where it all started." We're penalizing 2017 because we're not psychic. What if we try to take hindsight out of the equation entirely?

We can re-run those tables, but rather than using their Career AV as it stands today, we can use Career AV as it stood at the time. That's a better measure of how each quarterback was perceived by the contemporary fans. It's not perfect, by any means -- sometimes, a rookie comes along and clearly has the "it" factor despite a lack of track record -- but it's more fair than those previous tables.


Career AV of Conference Championship Quarterbacks (At The Time)
Lowest Highest
Player Team Year Career AV Player Team Year Career AV
Vince Ferragamo LARM 1979 2 Peyton Manning DEN 2015 177
Shaun King TB 1999 3 Peyton Manning DEN 2013 172
Pat Haden LARM 1976 5 Tom Brady NE 2017 171
Mark Sanchez NYJ 2009 6 Tom Brady NE 2016 164
Erik Kramer DET 1991 7 Tom Brady NE 2015 160
Jeff Hostetler NYG 1990 7 Brett Favre MIN 2009 155
Colin Kaepernick SF 2012 9 Peyton Manning IND 2009 152
Dieter Brock LARM 1985 9 Tom Brady NE 2014 152
Pete Beathard HOU 1967 10 Brett Favre GB 2007 148
Joe Flacco BAL 2008 11 Fran Tarkenton MIN 1976 146
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 2004 11 Average 61.2
Mark Malone PIT 1984 11 Median 53.5

That does change things quite a bit!

Vince Ferragamo had his first career start in 1979 after two years sitting on the bench, replacing an injured Pat Haden and going 4-1 down the stretch to earn a playoff spot and, eventually, a Super Bowl appearance. Haden himself appears on this list, as a third-string quarterback thrust into action when James Harris and Ron Jaworski were hurt three years prior. You have rookie quarterbacks in Mark Sanchez, Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger; you have injury replacements like Jeff Hostetler and Colin Kaepernick; you have career backups like Pete Beathard and Mark Malone. All of them had less of a resume than our starters this year -- Nick Foles had that one magical Chip Kelly season; Blake Bortles threw 35 touchdown passes in 2015; Case Keenum, uh, exists in physical space.

None of these three have great resumes, but it's not at all uncommon for quarterbacks with less to their name to get this far. I put it to you, O Scramble reader, that one of the major reasons "2004 Ben Roethlisberger, championship game quarterback" (945 DYAR!) sounds less weird than "2017 Case Keenum, championship game quarterback" (1,373 DYAR!) is because we know what happened next.

     

By this metric, Keenum is tied for the 31st least-likely championship game starter. Foles is tied for 36th. Bortles is tied for 72nd. They're all in the bottom third of championship game quarterbacks, but none of them lead the pack. The point is, weird quarterbacks end up in the final four all the time. The odd bit about this season is four of them ending up here at the same time. That's significantly more unusual.

Twenty-seven different championship quartets have had at least one quarterback less expected than Keenum, most recently Colin Kaepernick in 2012. Only five of those also have had a quarterback less expected than Foles, most recently Shaun King and Kurt Warner in 1999. Only two have also had a quarterback less expected than Bortles -- 1985 and 1986, when John Elway was young and Jim McMahon wasn't chronically injured. It has been a generation since we've had an alignment of quarterbacks this unexpected all here at the same time; it's a conjunction of questionable proportions.

But is it the worst quartet? It's rare to have someone as unexpected as Keenum, but it's even rarer to have someone as good as Tom Brady in the fourth corner. We're guaranteed to get the chance to watch at least one Hall of Famer on Sunday, no matter where everyone else's career paths go. That can't be forgotten! That's not a guarantee every year! Is Tom Terrific enough to single-handedly drag this lot out of the cellar?

Let's try to find out. To calculate each championship quartet's value, we're simply going to multiply all four quarterbacks' career AVs together. That way, each quarterback is responsible for one quarter of the final score -- no overweighting a legend on one end or a headscratcher at the other. The one change we will make is capping a quarterback's score at 100, because there is a point of diminishing returns. Is 2011 Tom Brady that much less deserving of a playoff spot than 2017 Tom Brady? At a certain point, your bust in Canton is already on order, so there's no sense in running up the score, as it were -- your reputation can only go so high. As a side effect, that creates a possible perfect score (four future Hall of Famers/MVPs in the same weekend), so we can compare each year to the theoretical maximum. We'll look both from a 2017 perspective and an "at the time" perspective, to get the best possible picture.

Let's look at our 2017 quarterbacks as an example. Tom Brady has a Weighted Career AV of 171, which we will cap at 100. Blake Bortles is at 40, Nick Foles is at 24, and Case Keenum is at 23. Multiplying those four numbers together gives us a product of 2,208,000 … which is really big and meaningless by itself. However, we can divide that by our "perfect score" of 100,000,000 (100 x 100 x 100 x 100) and get 2.21 percent -- in short, the 2017 quartet is 2.21 percent as qualified as a perfect theoretical foursome. That is one of the least qualified championship quartets of all time:


Least Qualified Championship Quartets (2017 Perspective)
Year QB1 QB2 QB3 QB4 Pct
1985 Dan Marino Jim McMahon Tony Eason Dieter Brock 1.85%
2017 Tom Brady Blake Bortles Nick Foles Case Keenum 2.21%
1984 Dan Marino Joe Montana Steve Fuller Mark Malone 7.83%
1969 Len Dawson Daryle Lamonica Bill Nelsen Joe Kapp 9.26%
1979 Terry Bradshaw Dan Pastorini Doug Williams Vince Ferragamo 10.75%
1967 Bart Starr Daryle Lamonica Don Meredith Pete Beathard 14.03%
1982 Joe Theismann Danny White Richard Todd David Woodley 15.41%
1977 Roger Staubach Ken Stabler Craig Morton Bob Lee 16.19%
1999 Steve McNair Kurt Warner Mark Brunell Shaun King 16.59%
1987 John Elway Bernie Kosar Doug Williams Wade Wilson 19.15%
Average 49.20%
Median 42.31%

Ooooh, so close, but so far.

Two years are by far ahead of the pack, but 2017 is just pipped to the line by 1985. Tom Brady vs. Dan Marino is a wash -- two Hall of Fame quarterbacks leading the day. Jim McMahon also outdoes Blake Bortles in a battle of our second-best quarterbacks; while the Punky QB never could recreate his 1985 season due to health issues, he stuck around for a long time and at one point had the longest regular season winning streak in NFL history (before Peyton Manning took it from him). Tony Eason also outdoes Nick Foles; Foles is riding high on one out-of-nowhere stellar season, while Eason had about three seasons of moderate success as New England's starter just before the Patriots became terrible for half a decade (those were the days, huh?).

Where '85 pulls away is with Dieter Brock, one-season wonder, over Case Keenum, one-season wonder plus a few more as an occasional starter. Career AV does not include CFL statistics, so if you think a 34-year-old Brock deserves credit for his years as the CFL's best passer with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, then you can mentally slide 2017 right up into that top slot. Seeing how Brock came out in 1985's DVOA (coming soon! presumably!) will be interesting.

Most of these years follow the same pattern -- one Hall of Fame- or MVP-level quarterback, a more borderline QB2, and then some dregs at the end. It's interesting to note the years that don't follow that pattern.

1984 eventually saw one of the classic Super Bowl matchups between Joe Montana and Dan Marino, but we were a game away from career backup Steve Fuller taking on Terry Bradshaw's replacement, Mark Malone. That might be the biggest bullet the NFL has ever dodged, in terms of quality Super Bowl play.

1999's NFC Championship Game between Kurt Warner and Shaun King is probably the closest we've ever come to Case Keenum-Nick Foles. One of those two unexpected quarterbacks went on to do great things, the other was replaced by Brad Johnson. Of the 2017 matchup, I'd guess Keenum has the better chance to follow in Warner's footsteps. If Bortles, Foles, and Keenum go on to do nothing of note in the rest of their careers, this will be one of the worst quartets we've ever had to watch.

These are the most-qualified championship quartets of all time, by 2017's reckoning:


Most Qualified Championship Quartets (2017 Perspective)
Year QB1 QB2 QB3 QB4 Pct
2016 Tom Brady Aaron Rodgers Matt Ryan Ben Roethlisberger 100.00%
2007 Tom Brady Brett Favre Philip Rivers Eli Manning 100.00%
1971 Johnny Unitas Roger Staubach Bob Griese John Brodie 100.00%
1993 Steve Young Joe Montana Jim Kelly Troy Aikman 97.00%
1992 Dan Marino Steve Young Jim Kelly Troy Aikman 97.00%
2015 Peyton Manning Tom Brady Carson Palmer Cam Newton 95.00%
1973 Fran Tarkenton Roger Staubach Bob Griese Ken Stabler 94.00%
2004 Tom Brady Ben Roethlisberger Donovan McNabb Michael Vick 93.00%
1981 Joe Montana Dan Fouts Ken Anderson Danny White 84.00%
2008 Ben Roethlisberger Donovan McNabb Kurt Warner Joe Flacco 82.56%

Pick your poison for the best of all time. 1971 Johnny Unitas was a getting long in the tooth, and I think AV over-rates Eli Manning somewhat, so I'm sticking with last year's class, but these are a bunch of Hall of Famers, MVPs, Super Bowl champions and also Michael Vick. It's no wonder 2017 feels so bad; not when 2015 and 2016 are right here at the top, with three more from the 2000s not far behind. The long runs of Brady, Manning and Roethlisberger have spoiled us rotten.

Also, the fact that we never got the Steve Young-Joe Montana Super Bowl after the 1993 or 1994 seasons hurts. If dodging Fuller-Malone was the NFL getting lucky, missing out on Montana-Young is its counterpoint. Everything balances out in the end.

Again, though, those tables were put together with the benefit of hindsight. What if you were browsing Football Outsiders in 1972, which I assume would have been on with some kind of mimeographed fanzine mailed out if you sent $2 plus a self-addressed stamped envelope to Massachusetts? What would have seemed like the least qualified quartets at the time?


Least Qualified Championship Quartets (At the Time)
Year QB1 QB2 QB3 QB4 Pct
1979 Terry Bradshaw Dan Pastorini Doug Williams Vince Ferragamo 0.13%
1999 Mark Brunell Steve McNair Kurt Warner Shaun King 0.15%
1985 Dan Marino Jim McMahon Tony Eason Dieter Brock 0.24%
1984 Joe Montana Dan Marino Steve Fuller Mark Malone 0.51%
1986 Phil Simms John Elway Jay Schroeder Bernie Kosar 0.77%
1996 Brett Favre Drew Bledsoe Mark Brunell Kerry Collins 0.97%
2001 Kordell Stewart Kurt Warner Donovan McNabb Tom Brady 1.01%
1987 John Elway Doug Williams Bernie Kosar Wade Wilson 1.10%
2004 Donovan McNabb Tom Brady Michael Vick Ben Roethlisberger 1.32%
1974 Fran Tarkenton Terry Bradshaw Ken Stabler James Harris 1.34%
Average 10.94%
Median 4.47%

2017's no longer at the top of the list. 2017 no longer makes the list. 2017's all the way down in 18th place, because we have a bona fide Hall of Famer in waiting in one corner.

The players in this table made their reputation, in part, because they reach championship games early and often, before the full extent of their talents have really had a chance to bloom. That's why the average and median is so, so much lower here than in the hindsight rankings -- turns out, most quarterbacks make championship games before the end of their careers. Whoda thunk it. Having a quarterback with his ticket already booked to Canton is a rarity, and Brady's presence bumps our group up considerably. Only 34 of our quarterbacks hit the 100 AV maximum in the year they made a championship game, and seven of them were named "Tom Brady," with four Peyton Mannings right behind them. No group of four can be the worst when you have legacies like that buoying you up.

Speaking of Tom Brady, there he is, in 2001 and 2004. 2001 Tom Brady was an afterthought, forced into action when Drew Bledsoe ... well, everyone here knows that story. What people might forget is that Brady was injured in the 2001 AFC Championship Game, and Bledsoe came into finish. How different history would have been if Bill Belichick had stuck with Bledsoe in the Super Bowl, and traded Brady away to Buffalo in 2002. But 2001 Brady was a surprising injury replacement. It would be a stretch to call 2004 Brady a game manager, but early Brady was a good quarterback being helped out by a top-10 defense; it wasn't until 2007 when the switch flipped and he took things to the final level.

It's worth noting that 2004 has the biggest gap between the "no hindsight" tables and the "2017 perspective" tables. It's the ninth-worst with what the foursome had done to that point; it's eighth-best with what we know now. So, if it seems weird to have it on this table, remember that all four quarterbacks that year still had plenty of great moments that hadn't been written yet. It's more to fair to say "oh, well, a first-round rookie is more likely to have a better career than a sixth-year backup thrust into a starting role." The point I'm trying to get at, however, is that we don't really know how any of these guys will turn out. None are rookies, sure, but Keenum, Foles, and Bortles are all still young. "Case Keenum, championship quarterback" sounds weird today. Maybe it won't in five years! That's the benefit of hindsight.

Ben Roethlisberger was a promising first-round rookie in 2004; Kurt Warner was a nobody with an amazing season in 1999. In 1984, Dan Marino was a second-year player (albeit one setting records) and Joe Montana only had one Super Bowl ring. We know now that these players went on to keep doing great things for years and years to come. But wouldn't we have said the same about Robert Griffin after 2012? Or, for that matter, Nick Foles after his 2013 breakout season? Derek Anderson in 2007? Don Majkowski in 1989? Greg Cook in 1969?

Hindsight is a powerful drug, and one-year wonders exist. They happen all the time. Is Case Keenum a one-year wonder, or has he flipped a switch? 2023 Bryan will be able to answer that question a lot easier than 2018 Bryan can, let me tell you.

And, just for the counterpoint, and because we don't have enough tables yet in this article, the most-qualified championship quartets:


Most Qualified Championship Quartets (At the Time)
Year QB1 QB2 QB3 QB4 Pct
2016 Tom Brady Aaron Rodgers Ben Roethlisberger Matt Ryan 100.00%
2015 Peyton Manning Tom Brady Carson Palmer Cam Newton 76.00%
1998 John Elway Randall Cunningham Vinny Testaverde Chris Chandler 50.84%
1993 Joe Montana Jim Kelly Steve Young Troy Aikman 33.93%
1970 Johnny Unitas George Blanda John Brodie Craig Morton 30.07%
1983 Jim Plunkett Joe Theismann Jim Zorn Joe Montana 21.05%
2014 Tom Brady Aaron Rodgers Russell Wilson Andrew Luck 20.58%
1966 Bart Starr Len Dawson Jack Kemp Don Meredith 19.98%
1997 John Elway Steve Young Brett Favre Kordell Stewart 18.86%
2002 Rich Gannon Steve McNair Brad Johnson Donovan McNabb 17.63%

... I can't explain 1998 ranking so high, either. That's a compilation of stat compilers behind John Elway, and a reminder that no stat is perfect, I suppose.

But look there. Look at the top. 2016 number one, 2015 number two, and 2014 also in the top 10. This ranking is basically how many living legends are present in the final four (which is why it drops off so quickly; most players' best seasons come before they're in their late 30s), and we have never, ever, in the history of the NFL playoffs, had so many stars in the final four as frequently as we have had in the past 36 months.

And that's why 2017 feels like the worst, whether it's ranked second, 18th or whathaveyou. The NFL is different today than it was in the 1970s. We expect great teams to come with great quarterback play, a result of decades of rules changes to make the passing game more prominent and a golden generation of quarterbacks to take advantage of it.

This isn't the '70s, where the Rams made a habit of reaching the final four with anonymous, forgettable passers. From 1974 through 1985, only two years did not feature a bottom-20 quarterback making a championship game appearance. This was an expected part of the game. From 2000 to 2016, only three bottom-20 quarterbacks made it, and two were named Mark Sanchez. That's just not how the game is supposed to be played anymore.

The drop-off from 2016 to 2017 is the largest we've ever seen, no matter which version of the stats you want to use. The seven-year gap between 2017 and the next most recent bad year (2010, when Cutlers and Sanchizes roamed the earth) is the longest we've ever had. The gap between 2010 and its most recent bad year (2004, with rookie Roethlisberger) is the second longest we've ever had -- and, push come to shove, I think I subjectively would have put a first-round rookie and a one-time Super Bowl ring winner over players like Foles and Keenum, regardless of what the numbers say.

Compare that to the mid-'80s, when Mark Malones, Jay Schroeders, Wade Wilsons, and Jim McMahons were a regular feature on the penultimate weekend of the season. We're no longer acclimatized to quarterbacks like this. It's a throwback to an earlier era, and we no longer have the coping skills our forefathers had to deal with this sort of thing.

So, is 2017 the worst championship quartet ever, or at least, the least-deserving bunch? I don't think I'd agree; we have a Tom Brady vaccine to help keep things from getting too terrible. But it's a serious case of whiplash -- from what the 2010s have brought us, from the all-time great set of quarterbacks from last year and from the potential Brady-Ryan-Brees-Roethlisberger set we could have had if things had gone a little differently last week. My recommendation to you is treat this like a throwback weekend -- enjoy the hard-hitting defensive play, pretend that "Defense Wins Championships" is a thing that actually exists, remember the Purple People Eaters and Gang Green, and enjoy football like it used to be played.

And thank your lucky stars that Tom Brady beat out Marcus Mariota for the fourth slot, because all the tables in the world wouldn't have made that one feel better.

Andrew: While I thank my lucky stars that Bryan was happy to write all that himself, so I didn't have to decrypt his multifaceted spreadsheets. Death by Excel!

Bryan: Just because I sent you 23 pages of poorly written, un-documented tables doesn't mean I have a problem!

Andrew: Here's to another outstanding pair of playoffs, Drew Brees or not Drew Brees.

Bryan: Drew Brees or not Drew Brees; that is the question.
Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of Blake Bortles' inaccurate passes
Or to take arms against a sea of backup quarterbacks and, by blitzing, end them.

Staff Playoff Fantasy Update

Bryan: Two weeks down, two to go, and we're beginning to see some serious stratification going on, with all six of us falling into unique categories going forward. The picture of what needs to happen for each of us to win has clarified a lot, as well. From first to worst:

Rivers: The Leader. The goal of the game is to score more points than anyone else, and that's exactly what Rivers has done so far, thanks to -- and I can't believe I'm typing this -- a stellar divisional round performance from Blake Bortles. With only Bortles, the Jaguars defense, and Chris Hogan remaining, Rivers pretty much needs Jacksonville to upset New England on Sunday to have a chance. If that does happen, he'll be sitting pretty. Minnesota's last-second victory did give him a bit of a body blow, however, costing him an extra game from Alvin Kamara. With only three players left, he wouldn't have the best odds, but he does have a clear path to victory.

Andrew: The Wounded. Andrew's in second place! That's good! Andrew only has two players left. That's bad. Leonard Fournette had a monster day against Pittsburgh to keep Andrew's head above water, but Minnesota's win really hurt him badly, costing him both Drew Brees and Wil Lutz in one fell swoop. As it is, he not only needs Jacksonville to upset New England, but to do it with Fournette making up ground on Bortles and the Jaguars defense in order to pass Rivers. That's a hard combination to picture -- he'd want Jacksonville's defense to struggle against Brady, but the Jaguars to stick with a successful running game all day long -- but it is, at least, something that could happen on a football field.

Aaron: The Favorite. He may be sitting back in third place, but the strategy of "pick all the Patriots" has Aaron poised for a second consecutive Staff Fantasy title. He's one of only two players with a quarterback left, and Tom Brady is slightly better than Blake Bortles, statistically speaking. Aaron has both Vikings and Eagles, so he's guaranteed to get someone through to the Super Bowl on that side. About the only thing that's gone wrong for him so far is losing his two highest-scoring players in Derrick Henry and Michael Thomas, but hell, he got two games out of each of 'em. With no singletons and a league-high seven players still alive, you have to call Aaron the favorite barring a shocker in Foxborough -- and even then, he'd have a fighting chance.

Vince: The Dead. I think this may be a Staff Fantasy first -- all nine of Vince's selections were eliminated before the conference championships. He's still sitting in fourth place thanks to a huge day from Ben Roethlisberger (40 points!) and some great work from the likes of Ted Ginn and Le'Veon Bell, but man, every bet he made on the divisional round went bust. It's mathematically possible for him to win; Blake Bortles could throw 15 interceptions this week, right? In reality, he'll be clinging on to see if he can avoid finishing in the basement.

Scott: The Comeback Kid. Scott hasn't broken 100 points yet, which isn't where he'd like to be at the moment. But with seven active players, tying Aaron for the most, he still has plenty of potential going forward. He has a couple Patriots to blunt Aaron's scores, and then more Vikings than anyone else to rack up points of his own. He needs Minnesota to win on the road this week, and then hope that home-field advantage means something even when you don't get to sell your own tickets.

Bryan: The Mostly Dead. And, as we all know, mostly dead means somewhat alive! Bryan's path to victory basically involves Brian Hoyer throwing 15 touchdown passes to Rob Gronkowski over the next two weeks. In a season that has been this hard on quarterbacks, I suppose we can't count anything out.



Bryan Andrew Aaron Vince Rivers Scott
QB Jared Goff Drew Brees Tom Brady Ben Roethlisberger Blake Bortles Alex Smith

16 46 28 40 22
RB Todd Gurley Kareem Hunt Derrick Henry Le'Veon Bell Alvin Kamara Dion Lewis

11 10 28 26 25 13
RB Rex Burkhead Leonard Fournette Jay Ajayi Mark Ingram Devonta Freeman Latavius Murray

0 36 9 5 20 12
WR Robert Woods Tyreek Hill Brandin Cooks JuJu Smith-Schuster Antonio Brown Adam Thielen

14 9 3 6 25 7
WR Cooper Kupp Keelan Cole Michael Thomas Ted Ginn Julio Jones Devin Funchess

12 4 33 25 26 7
WR Alshon Jeffery Mohamed Sanu Stefon Diggs Sammy Watkins Chris Hogan Danny Amendola

6 12 19 2 6 11
TE Rob Gronkowski Travis Kelce Kyle Rudolph Delanie Walker Austin Hooper Zach Ertz

14 12 2 11 1 3
K Harrison Butker Wil Lutz Stephen Gostkowski Ryan Succop Chris Boswell Kai Forbath

3 17 5 7 6 15
D Los Angeles Kansas City New England New Orleans Jacksonville Minnesota

0 3 6 1 10 3
Total 76 149 133 123 152 93

Best of the Rest

Bryan: The strategy to get this far? Have Martavis Bryant. While he only has 13 points, he's a very common selection among teams doing well; the top four clubs all made sure to pick him up. Now that Bryant is out, of course, that pick won't do you much good, but it's gotten you this far.

MichaelInMelbourne is still our leader, but like many others, he went very heavily in on Atlanta and is paying the price. While he has a 10-point lead, he only has two players left, and only James White seems likely to get him significant points going forward. That means this is still anybody's race, though it seems anyone with Case Keenum on their roster has the best chance going forward.

Top 5:

  • 1. MichaelinMelbourne (103) (James White and Allen Hurns remaining)
  • 2. Sid (93) (Jerrick McKinnon, Nelson Agholor, Marqise Lee and Jake Elliott remaining)
  • T3. Ryan D (90) (Nelson Agholor and Marqise Lee remaining)
  • T3. Surebrec (90) (Case Keenum, Jerrick McKinnon and Marqise Lee remaining)
  • T5. Smilerz (88) (Nelson Agholor, Dede Westbrook and Allen Hurns remaining)
  • T5. AudacityOfHoops (88) (Case Keenum, Jerrick McKinnon, Dede Westrbrook, Marqise Lee and Josh Lambo remaining)
  • T5. RickD (88) (Case Keenum, James White, Nelson Agholor, Kenny Britt and Philadelphia D remaining)

Awards

Keep Choppin' Wood: Marcus Williams had a terrific season for the New Orleans Saints, deservedly earning a spot on the Pro Football Writers of America's All-Rookie Team. Unfortunately, that season's most memorable moment was also, by far, its worst:

Theories abound as to what Williams was doing on this play. Did he simply misjudge the ball? Was he trying to avoid committing pass interference by not hitting Diggs too early? Was he hoping to take Diggs' legs from under him, and did he simply miss? Did the scheme put a rookie safety in too stressful a position against a top receiver like Diggs? Whatever the answer, the outcome was the same: one of the most memorable plays in the history of the NFL playoffs, enabled by one of the all-time horrible mistakes.

Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win the Game: On their opening drive following a Steelers punt, the Jacksonville Jaguars drove to the Pittsburgh 2-yard line, where they were held to bring up fourth-and-1. Eschewing the chance to kick a chip-shot field goal, Doug Marrone elected to go for it on fourth down, and Leonard Fournette dove toward the goal line for the opening score of the game. This is exactly the type of aggression we like to see from road underdogs, as the Jaguars spared the forward-looking Steelers a trip to Hell or Haiti.

John Fox Award for Conservatism: Last year, in this exact spot, we criticized an AFC South head coach for punting on a makeable fourth down in Patriots territory while trailing by a single touchdown. The more things change, the more they stay the same -- Mike Mularkey called for the Titans to punt on fourth-and-2 in Patriots territory, while trailing by seven points in the second quarter. Though the punt worked out reasonably well, netting around 40 yards of field position after a penalty, the Patriots took possession at their own 9-yard line and, just as they did last year, drove the length of the field for a touchdown anyway. Fourth-and-2 in that area of the field is exactly the spot where we are seeing league-wide trends shift, there is no excuse for giving Tom Brady the ball in that situation. If you do not believe that you can gain 2 yards on a given play, why even bother turning up? This was just the latest example of a sport that is gradually leaving this sort of malarkey behind.

Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching: We could give Mike Tomlin this award for a multitude of different reasons. The decision to go for an onside kick at the end of the game, for instance. Or not calling a timeout before the two-minute warning. Or the play calling and lack of urgency on the Steelers' final drive. Or punching it in for a touchdown rather than a quick field goal. Instead, we're going to talk about fourth-and-short and the quarterback sneak.

Ben Roethlisberger is 18-for-19 on fourth-down runs in his career. The Steelers haven't run a quarterback sneak since 2015. This is two consecutive playoff losses where the big question after the game is "why didn't you run a quarterback sneak?" (though, admittedly, last year's loss to the Patriots was more of a beatdown rather than just one or two bad plays). After last year's loss, Tomlin claimed Roethlisberger had the "freedom" to call a sneak in sneaky situations. This year, Roethlisberger claims that he does not have the power to check to a sneak at the line.. We have no idea what's going on there, but that's pretty much the dictionary definition of confusing.

'Silver Lining' Fantasy Player of the Week: One more time for Marcus Mariota, a quarterback we were so sure was toast that no one picked him in either the staff or Best of the Rest fantasy leagues. At least with Mike Mularkey out of town, perhaps someone can build an offense that actually plays to Mariota's strengths rather than highlighting his weaknesses.

'Comfort in Sadness' Stat of the Week: The number of different ways the Saints have lost games in which Drew Brees has given them the lead in the fourth quarter is remarkable. Scott wrote about this in this week's Clutch Encounters:

This is [Brees'] 18th lost comeback, which is easily the NFL record. Brees joins Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to lose multiple playoff games after throwing a go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Brees actually threw two go-ahead touchdowns in a 2011 loss to the 49ers in the divisional round. That's also the last time an NFL playoff game ended with a game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

The good news for Brees, at least, is that this was not typical of the 2017 Saints defense. After three straight years as one of the worst defenses in the league, this year's Saints finished eighth -- and fifth in pass defense -- on the strength of an outstanding draft class and a few key free-agency additions. The secondary is one of the youngest in the league, the offensive line and running game are outstanding, and the Saints appear to have all of the pieces in place to make another run next year. (Technically, that is all of the pieces except Brees himself, as the quarterback is a free agent this spring.)

Game-Changing Play of the Week: Sometimes, we have to look far and wide to find a single play that alters a game. Not this week.

Blake Bortles Garbage-Time Player of the Week: When only one game has garbage time, it makes picking a winner relatively simple. In a week of close finishes, only the Patriots-Titans game really got out of hand at the end. We could give this to Mariota again, but let's instead highlight Corey Davis, who was kept out of the end zone entirely during his rookie season only to score twice against New England, including this one at the very end of the game.

Three-Eyed Raven Lock of the Week

All picks are made without reference to FO's Premium picks, while all lines are courtesy of Bovada and were accurate as of time of writing.

Bryan: In my attempt to complete a come-from-behind victory, my lock of the week is the opposite of whatever Andrew takes. So, let's hear what he's got, and I'll explain why he's wrong.

Andrew: Oh, well in that case, given that I don't like any of the nasty, nasty game lines, I'll warm up for our annual Super Bowl Prop Bet Extravaganza by diving into the NFL Specials pool. How many interceptions will there be in the conference championship round? The money line is 3.5 and, as we have discussed here, the surprising list of quarterback names (and the quality of at least three of these defenses) gives plenty of reason to think that these defenses can pick off an average of one pass each. Give me over 3.5 interceptions on Sunday.

Bryan: Buh. Alright, alright. Three or fewer interceptions? OK, I can get behind that. Um. Yeah, so, we're going to need to have at least one of these quarterbacks throw no interceptions at all. Brady had the third-lowest interception rate in 2017 (1.38 percent of his passes, only behind Alex Smith and Tyrod Taylor), so he's fairly safe. Case Keenum had the fourth-lowest! So I've got a couple safe guys there; they may end up throwing one if they're in desperation catch-up mode, but both of their teams are favored to win, so I'm comfortable assuming zero interceptions from them, even against Philadelphia and Jacksonville.

Even Bortles and Foles didn't have insanely high interception rates (2.49 percent and 1.98 percent, respectively). If you were looking for a foursome of playoff quarterbacks to toss interceptions, you'd want Mariota, Newton, Roethlisberger and ... well, still Bortles, but we can't win them all. Now, Jacksonville's defense did have the highest interception rate in the league this season, and Philadelphia was eighth, but they're against our two safest passers. Minnesota was only slightly above average and New England was flat-out bad at forcing picks, so I think ... yeah, I think I'm OK with this. Under 3.5, and fingers crossed.

Records to date:
Andrew: 9-9
Bryan: 8-10

Email us with fantasy questions, award suggestions, crazy videos, outlandish conspiracy theories, fearsome playoff foursomes, and other assorted flotsam and jetsam at scramble@footballoutsiders.com.

Posted by: Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter on 17 Jan 2018

26 comments, Last at 21 Jan 2018, 11:53am by Bob Smith

Comments

1
by JMM :: Wed, 01/17/2018 - 3:32pm

So rather than use quarterback DVOA for the year to quantify the quality of the quartet of quarterbacks in the semi (I wanted to say quarter) finals, we go off site to use a "career measure" stat because it correlates with what the crowd thinks?

Hmmm........

4
by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 01/17/2018 - 4:27pm

Not at all.

We used DYAR to look at individual season performances, and we did that last year. We also mentioned, in this article, that this group doesn't hit the bottom five, though it's on the low end.

Rather than just repeat the article from last season and say that this year isn't special, we tried to go with another tactic -- why the ~perception~ of this year is so low, and for that, we wanted a convenient stat that summed up players careers. AV is convenient because it allows us to look at players who started their careers before 1986. We don't have full career DYAR or DVOA for players like Joe Montana or Dan Marino, and we wouldn't have been able to look at years before 1994 (the last time Montana made a conference championship game) without making massive assumptions.

As said in the article, the combined 2017 DYAR for this group of quarterbacks is 3,347 (including rushing DYAR). That's low, but far from the bottom. The worst group of quarterbacks, looking at a single season, was 1991's set (Jim Kelly, Mark Rypien, John Elway and Erik Kramer).

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/scramble/2017/scramble-ball-lot-live

That being said, the point here is that people perceived a group that included hall of famers like Kelly and Elway as better than this year's group, regardless of how they played in the season in question. Their track records prior to 1991 color how they're viewed. That's what we were trying to get at, here -- the resumes of each quarterback, and how much the public feel they "belonged" in the conference championships, both at the time and looking back in hindsight.

That's why we used Weighted Career AV. It's a stat we regularly use on the site to help compare across eras (and across positions, though that's obviously not relevant here) -- we use it a lot in draft articles, we use it in free agency stuff -- it's a fantastic stat for judging the general quality of players across a wide variety of variables. Just because we didn't invent it doesn't mean we don't think it's a good stat.

5
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/17/2018 - 4:42pm

"The worst group of quarterbacks, looking at a single season, was 1991's set (Jim Kelly, Mark Rypien, John Elway and Erik Kramer"

Hmm.

Now I'm curious which year had the best quartet of running backs. 1991 was a pretty good year, although a bunch of the years in the 80s and 90s through about 1994 were pretty loaded.

9
by ammek :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 5:54am

people perceived a group that included hall of famers like Kelly and Elway as better than this year's group, regardless of how they played in the season in question. Their track records prior to 1991 color how they're viewed.

Perception of those QBs was also affected by what we might call their pedigree. Kelly and Elway were expected to be great before they even came into the league; Rypien, who had come from nowhere, was taking the Joe Gibbs offense to new heights. (Kramer was the outlier: the Lions somehow rumbled into the championship game despite a negative DVOA both overall and in pass offense.) The Pedigree Factor is even more significant for some of those mid-1980s quartets: with Marino, Montana and McMahon, and even to a lesser extent Eason, I was aware I was watching quarterbacks who could go on to be all-time greats. The exceptional thing about the 2017 quartet is that I don't expect Bortles or Foles to be starting in the NFL next season, and it's not certain that Keenum will either.

The closest comparison I can see in Bryan's lists is 1982. Theismann had been an average QB for a few years; he was already well into his thirties, and there had been no indication he was going to turn into one of the best passers of the early 1980s. Woodley was terrible; his feeble 3.9 ANY/A in 1982 was more than two yards per attempt worse than the others in the championship quartet. Richard Todd was a bit of an enigma, a gunslinger with a high upside and a lot of flaws. But he was 29 and in his seventh season with the Jets, who kind of fluked their way into the championship game. New York drafted Ken O'Brien in the first round the following season, so I don't think Todd was expected to do any better than his 1982 output. I guess the one player who might have been seen as a future star was Danny White, who had been playing at a pro bowl level ever since he took over the starting QB job in 1980. But even he was about to turn 31.

10
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 9:24am

In defense of Kramer...yes he was not good in the '91 regular season (remember he was an injury replacement). But he had an outstanding game in the divisional round, and shredded a pretty good Dallas team. In limited action in '93 he was #1 DVOA (although, he just barely met the minimum attempts cutoff). In '95 with the Bears he was #1 in DYAR and #3 in DVOA. I feel pretty comfortable asserting that this is probably the best single Bears quarterback season since Sid Luckman (Maybe my sons will be reading Football Outsiders 40 or so years from now when they get to a Sid Luckman season and prove it).

If he had managed to stayed healthy, I think Kramer would have had a fine career. I strongly believe that if the Lions had kept him in '94 instead of idiotically over-paying Scott Mitchell, they would have more than one playoff win in the Super Bowl era.

2
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/17/2018 - 3:40pm

Isn't Bryan's best strategy for Foles to throw a ton of TDs to Jeffery and for Burkhead to hoover a ton of rushing yards?

That's less likely to reward Aaron.

-----
Also, it's not entirely fair to lump McMahon in with the lesser lights. He went 36-5 as a starter from 1984-1989, and his AV/game was competitive with the better QBs on these lists. He was just the Bob Sanders of QBs. He makes Sam Bradford and Ben Roethlisberger seem healthy.

3
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/17/2018 - 3:46pm

"General" Bob Lee was a punter/quarterback hybrid
-------

And?

So were Randall Cunningham, Daryle Lamonica, and Danny White.
White was the punter in two CCs and Super Bowls before QBing in three of them.
Cunningham was an all-american punter in college.

6
by PaddyPat :: Wed, 01/17/2018 - 6:59pm

No matter what you say or how you spin it, I never expected 2007 Derek Anderson to be a star. A marginal starter aspiration would have been euphoric.

7
by RobotBoy :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 12:58am

Eason was terrible, his decent stats a tribute to the great players around him. The Patriots would have had a better record if they'd started Grogan in '84 and '85, Eason was the high draft pick though and Grogan, at 31, was considered washed up. The Patriots wouldn't have won against the Bears but they definitely would have scored another touchdown or two.

This tells you everything you want to know about the pre-Parcells Patriots:'After winning against the Bengals [to qualify for the playoffs], fans stormed the field and tore down the goal posts. Unfortunately fans proceeded to walk down Route 1 with the goalposts, accidentally hitting an overhead wire and electrocuting themselves.'

8
by TimK :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 5:01am

OK, the goalpost story sent me to google, only to find that things seemed to get even stranger. Somehow some fans managed to successfully sue the city for their injuries from shorting an overhead wire with a stolen goalpost...

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19911214&slug=1...

Are there now warning signs about this attached to goalposts and/or around power lines near stadiums?

At least it looks like the fans all survived (I’m glad electrocute was being used its less technical and lethal sense).

15
by Dr. Bill :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 3:23pm

1) I was there at the game, and like everyone else stormed the field. I saw the goalpost going down, but wasn't part of it.

2) My most vivid memory was of crossing paths with a Bengal lineman walking off the field, yelling "Good game" in a non-sarcastic way, and him shoving me to the ground like a rag-doll.

20
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 4:48pm

Yea, it looks like Grogan was >2.5 ANY/A better than Eason in '85. Looks kind of like a Rob Johnson/Doug Flutie situation, where the front office's "golden boy" gets outplayed by the stopgap veteran, which then leads to an awkward situation.

I was kind of shocked when I looked on PFR and saw that Grogan played until 1990! I remember seeing the highlights from that awful 1990 Rod Rust Patriots season (I studiously avoided watching any of their games), and must have blocked out of my mind that Grogan started games for them. Feel bad that the poor guy had to end his career on that note, with the terrible team on the field, and the Victor Kiam/Lisa Olson awfulness off the field.

21
by Vincent Verhei :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 5:10pm

Steve Grogan was still the Patriots quarterback in Tecmo Super Bowl!

11
by PatsFan :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 11:30am

Depending on Brady's hand you might have Hoyer, Keenum, Bortles, and Foles. Time to rewrite! :)

12
by nat :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 12:04pm

I'm surprised FO hasn't added an update to the "Injury Aftermath" Extra Point for this. A throwing hand injury to the best remaining QB is certainly news. That it ended his practice and required an x-ray more so. Also that it caused him to skip a scheduled media session.

It's sounding like he'll still be available to start, but will be limited in practices leading up to the game. That means it could be anything from "no sorer than usual" to "we don't want to let the Jags game plan for Hoyer". It's interesting that someone on the team was quoted saying Brady "should be fine" for the game - which falls well short of "is fine now". But that could be over-parsing things.

There's speculation about the type of injury, including a severe dislocation of a finger.

Fun times.

13
by aces4me :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 2:29pm

Bledsoe played with a pin sticking out of the index finger of his throwing hand (still gives me the willies thinking about it). Brady will play as long as all 5 fingers are still attached.

17
by PatsFan :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 3:40pm

It's not an issue of will he play. Gronk "played" in SB46, remember. It's how effectively will be able to play. Especially since at least some signs seem to be pointing to a thumb injury.

14
by Anon Ymous :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 2:58pm

FWIW, I caught the same message behind, "should be fine."

16
by PatsFan :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 3:39pm

Pats beat writers are scrutinizing still photos from the media access portion of today's practice (which only included stretching and jogging -- no QBs threw any passes) to try to figure out if there is some sort of thumb splint in the glove Brady is wearing on his throwing hand (he normally does not wear one in practice, btw). The team's radio color man, who also has a daily show, claimed that when he looked at video Brady was not moving his thumb. And ominously (?) Brady postponed to tomorrow the press conference he had previously postponed to today.

45 states rejoice!

18
by Bryan Knowles :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 3:59pm

Brady will play, but heck, why not, I have the data here.

Replacing Hall of Famer Tom Brady with Guy Who's Been A Below Average Starter But At Least Has Significant Starting Experience Brian Hoyer is definitely a downgrade. With 22 Weighted Career AV, he knocks everything down significantly.

That would have him slide in as the fourth-least-qualified QB from a 2017 perspective, right behind Bob Lee and beating Case Keenum and Rex Grossman to the line. And Grossman and Keenum were young, with potential of improving (heck, Keenum has actually done that improvement this season; it's just a question of whether it sticks). Hoyer is who Hoyer is.

From an At The Time perspective, Hoyer would be tied for 30th.

Replacing Brady's 100 with Hoyer's 22 knocks the 2017 quartet down to 0.48% of the "perfect" 100 score. That, by a wide margin, knocks them down to the worst quartet ever from a 2017 perspective, and the fourth-worst by an "At the Time" perspective; people like Shaun King and Vince Ferragamo still beat out Hoyer, but it's not pretty.

To further show the impact Brady has on this list, you could replace him with Marcus Mariota, Kirk Cousins or Andy Dalton and have the least-qualified quartet ever, by this metric.

To get 2017 to the bottom of the "at the time" rankings is much harder. QBs who started games this season who could get you there would include DeShone Kizer, C.J. Beathard and Tom Savage. Or, to give an actual playoff team: Nathan Peterman (or Patrick Mahomes, but it's funnier to think about Peterman).

19
by PatsFan :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 4:34pm

Oh, Brady will play. But will he play like Tom Brady or play like Brian Hoyer on a good day. Or like typical Brian Hoyer.

22
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 5:48pm

Peterman has negative AV, right?

24
by Bryan Knowles :: Fri, 01/19/2018 - 2:33am

Nathan Peterman earned 1 AV; he did get up to 252 yards and a couple touchdowns which isn't nothing, though it's the next closest thing.

That ties him for 45th among quarterbacks this season with names like Landry Jones, Nate Sudfeld and Sean Mannion. It is the "you participated!" award.

It should be noted that it's technically still provisional AV for 2017, and I'd question why Peterman got 1 while, say, Drew Stanton got 0. Down at that level, I suppose it doesn't particularly matter, but still. #justiceforStanton

23
by PatsFan :: Thu, 01/18/2018 - 5:49pm

[cue Dragnet theme]

https://twitter.com/MikeReiss/status/954099803725627392

(Brady did not practice other than the stretching and jogging.)

25
by Bob Smith :: Sun, 01/21/2018 - 11:48am

Bryan-You would get somewhat different results IF Chase Stuart over at P-F-R would have continued his study that he did in '08 where he compiled Career Approx. Value IN THE PLAYOFFS. For example-T. Bradshaw had a much higher Value than in the Reg. Season whereas my guy (Dan Marino) had a much much lower Value in the PO's. Just a couple of examples.

26
by Bob Smith :: Sun, 01/21/2018 - 11:53am

Bryan-You would get somewhat different results IF Chase Stuart over at P-F-R would have continued his study that he did in '08 where he compiled Career Approx. Value IN THE PLAYOFFS. For example-T. Bradshaw had a much higher Value than in the Reg. Season whereas my guy (Dan Marino) had a much much lower Value in the PO's. Just a couple of examples.